University saddened by passing of Jim Coutts

The University of Lethbridge community offers its deepest condolences to the friends and family of Dr. James Allan Coutts (LLD 2012) who passed away peacefully in Toronto on December 31, 2013.

"Jim Coutts was an incredibly generous person and an outstanding Canadian who made great contributions in public life to our country and was incredibly generous and supportive of our University.  We will miss him greatly," says Dr. Mike Mahon, President and Vice-Chancellor.

Jim Coutts was an icon in Canadian political circles.

"Jim entrusted the University with a significant part of his life's work and passion through gifting his art collection and family homestead in Nanton to the stewardship and care of the University of Lethbridge.  We were humbled to receive that gift at the time and remain grateful to Jim for leaving such a legacy to the University with the expressed desire to see it benefit Canadians.  Jim was very interested in the continued success of the University and dedicated significant amounts of his time in recent years connecting the University to others and sharing the story of the University."

The University of Lethbridge flag has been lowered to half mast in Jim's honour.

Coutts, James Allan, C.M. - Passed away peacefully on December 31, 2013 after a long illness bravely fought. Survived by his sister Jean (Wayne) Moore, his nephews Greg (Cathrine) and Michael (Yehudit), his nieces Pat (Owen) and Laurie, his great nieces and nephews Heather, Jessica, Darren, Liam and Emily.

Jim had a tremendous gift in friendship and will be sorely missed by his many close friends across Canada, in the United States and throughout Europe, and by his devoted assistants Anne Drakes and Sukhlal Patel.

Coutts was most at peace while walking the gardens of his homestead property in Nanton.

Born in High River, Alberta, on May 16, 1938, to Ewart and Alberta (Allan) Coutts, Jim grew up in his beloved Nanton. He received a BA and LLB from the University of Alberta and an MBA from Harvard Business School.

Though he practised as a lawyer and business consultant, his great love since the age of 14 was politics in general and the Liberal Party of Canada in particular. From 1963 to 1966 he was Appointment Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Lester B. Pearson. From 1975 to 1981 he served as Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau.

From 1970 to 1975, Jim was a Founding Partner, Canada Consulting Group, where he helped Maurice Strong organize the Stockholm Environment Conference and establish the UN’s Environment headquarters in Nairobi, Kenya. In 1982 he became a principal of Lowther Consultants Limited and subsequently Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, CIC Canadian Investment Capital Limited.

Jim’s business success seemed merely a means by which he could undertake his highly activist philanthropy as a generous donor, a relentless fundraiser and a dedicated mentor to countless young people and more than 17 god children. Jim served with exceptional distinction as a founder and chairman of the Lester B. Pearson United World College of the Pacific Foundation Board; a co-founder with The Writers’ Trust of Canada of the W.O. Mitchell Literary Prize for Writers and Mentors; a director of The Hospital for Sick Children Board and Foundation for 17 years; a National Chair of the Nature Conservancy of Canada, where he took the lead in organizing two campaigns that raised over $700 million for conservation in Canada; and a member of the board of the Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation.

In recognition of his service to others and to his country, he was named a Member of the Order of Canada in 2001. In 2012 he donated his family homestead, which he so passionately restored to renowned gardens with native grasses, to the University of Lethbridge. In addition, Jim donated more than 300 works of art to the University of Lethbridge. Later he was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Laws Degree by the University.

Jim was a man of many interests. He was a voracious reader and art collector, an avid bird-watcher and gardener, a keen traveler and essayist, a family historian and social analyst. Though he failed in his attempts to become a Member of Parliament, his wise counsel was constantly sought by prime ministers, federal and provincial MPs and party officials to his very last days. He was an unfailing advocate for social justice, education and youth employment. Jim was a true and giving friend to many, from all walks of life, who will miss his stories, his wit, his knowledge, his guidance and his loyalty.

Celebrations of Jim’s life – both in Toronto and in Nanton, Alberta, will be announced at a later date.